Interview by Margaret Cooper in 2000 for the “Oxton Now & Then” publication.
Cyril, Ken and Reg Smith, brothers, all married, all grew up in Oxton.
[Cyril] “[I was born at Grove Farm, Oxton] yes, and christened here. I stayed with my grandmother at the farm. My grandfather was a woodman for the Sherbrooke family. I was looked after by my grandmother”.
[Reg] “We came to live at Oxton when I was five years old. We left Gladys Street [Nottingham] and I came to start school, it would be 1928”.
[Reg] “I can tell you, these two one day had a tent down in the orchard and they’d got their scissors and they clipped my hair off because I had long hair, long curly hair. I can remember them saying, ‘oh uncle’s coming’. There was a wooden box so they pushed me under the box and sat on the box whilst [he] came by”.
[Cyril] “At Grove Farm we had long stairs and what we used to do was take him [Reg] to the top of the stairs, get a tray, sit him on the tray and push him in and then we used to lock ourselves in the bedroom. Of course he’d go all the way down the stairs and then he’d fall head over heels and then there used to be a shindig. That used to be one of Ken’s and I’s favourite past times”.
“[We all went to the the village school].
[Ken] “We used to all go to Sunday school. [and] I used to go to the chapel to the Sunday school party. I used to go there because I used to go on the stage when they had a do every year, then as soon as they finished there I used to go down to the church and go to the church one, because we were all in the choir. That was the old chapel opposite the Green Dragon. We had one church and two chapels. You know where David Hose lives now, that’s where the [other] chapel was, [between the Bridge Inn and Forest Villas] I would say that chapel was pulled down somewhere about the mid thirties. When the old Bridge Inn was there, a chap named Northridge used to keep it and he had a son and he used to cut hair and my uncle used to take me there. There was a room away from it and you used to go up the steps to this place The new Bridge Inn was built about 75 years ago, round about then. Taylor’s, the tea room was a big wooden shed in the garden, you know where the old people’s bungalows are [School Gardens].
“We used to get three parties a year then, in them days. The school governors gave us a Christmas party, Mrs MacLean who lived then at the Manor House, she gave one and Phil [Sankey] who lived round at Holly Lodge, he gave one. She [Mrs. MacLean] was the Duke of Westminster’s daughter, Lady Ursula, her name was. Yes, the more parties the better. And we used to have rabbit pie suppers up at the memorial hall every year. This is just a joke but your parents used to tam [starve] you that day so that you get more rabbit pie down you at night. After Phil Sankey, Miss Hanson I believe lived at Holly Lodge. She took over when he left. I hope my brother here doesn’t mind what I’m going to say. Now we always had a Christmas party at school and you all got a present. You had a number, but lo and behold every time, I don’t know how the teacher did it, but my brother always got a doll. Its true because I can remember Kath Ward swapping with you. Phil Sankey, when he gave the party, they took it in age groups as to how much they paid for the presents. All the ‘baby room’, they got a present to the value of half a crown and the big room, they got a present up to five bob, that was in those days. [At school] there were only two [rooms], we had a partition down the stage. In the little room there were two or three classes, two in the big room. So it was very awkward”.
“You know the old cycle lamps well you used to put [carbide] from that in the ink and it used to make them throw up like. So if there was somebody you didn’t like in the class or who you’d had a bit of an argument with, you’d do that”.
“Mrs Glaswell was head teacher and she couldn’t quite manage the big boys. The gentlemen who was called the school bobby, he used to come round checking for truancy or whatever, Mr Nicholson. There used to be a lad in Oxton school his name was George Burrows. As soon as Mr Nicholson’s car used to pull up outside, he used to get a ball and if he could [he would] throw it and hit him, which he did on this particular day. So he took him into school and asked him to hold his hand out and then he brought the stick down and George pulled it away, so he held it and George still pulled it away and he never managed to cane him. That’s how George got expelled from Oxton school and went down to Lowdham school. Well Mrs Glaswell couldn’t handle him. I think at one stage she was caning him and he snatched the cane out of her hand and it broke”.
[Ken] “[After] school, round about the age of nine, I started with baker Martin, just running errands and that sort of thing”.
[Reg] “At [age] nine I used to go home, change out of my school clothes put my old things on and I used to cycle down Epperstone Road to Criftin Farm. Esam and I used to milk five cows, feed the pigs and the calves and that was every night, Monday to Friday. On a Saturday morning I used to go down, clean the pigs out and get the straw ready for the weekend, I used to go down Saturday afternoon to milk the five cows and feed the pigs and calves again. I didn’t go on a Sunday because we’d got to go to church and I used to get a large amount of nine pence. And that went on till my uncle, he was a special constable, he got knocked down in Oxton. I was allowed to leave Oxton School at the age of thirteen and a half to look after the stock at the farm here, Grove Farm, so I didn’t go to school after thirteen and a half. While I was looking after the stock, I was also helping Mr Severns who was the butcher, running errands etc and delivering meat and when I officially was allowed to leave school when my time was up, 14, I worked for Mr Severns then for about nine or twelve months and then I moved on to other things”.
[During the war, Cyril and Reg were in the army, Ken in the RAF]
[Reg]. “We’d been across to Cyprus for two or three days leave. and we came back to Haifa, there was a naval cruiser and several other naval ships. I got talking to some sailors and I said ‘what’s your captain’s name then?’ and it was Admiral Sherbrooke. I said ‘I come from the same village as Admiral Sherbrooke’ and they wanted to take me but I didn’t go. It was a new type of cruiser then called the Black Prince. Of course the things I remember about the Admiral is the battle of the sea near Norway where they took on the German navy, it was Christmas 1942. He lost his eye. The Queen [now Queen Mother] referred to him as her favourite naval officer. After the war he was [appointed] Black Rod [in Parliament]”.
[After the War, they all returned to] “little Oxton”.
[Cyril] “I was working at Nix’s when I left, and when [I] got demobbed I got out early because we’d been in the building trade. I could have been pushed anywhere in the country but they let me come straight back to Oxton”.
[Ken] “I started at Nix’s painting and he said ‘well I’ve set you on but you’re one of the last to be set on, if we come a bit short of labour you’ll be the first to go’, which was understandable. I think I was there about three years, and then I had a session at Doughty’s for two or three years and then I went on to the Electricity Board.
[Ken] “Every Christmas we used to have a football match and he [Tom Whitelocks] used to be the referee. We was all down at one end and he was half way up whistling and we used to play for fouls and everything. Has anyone told you about the football match at Christmas? Well it used to be married versus single, that’s what it used to be in those days.[It was] down Water Lane, just below this last house, between here [the water splash] and Pilgrim Cottage. Yes, that was a football field with a goal post, just against the bank and one against this edge. There used to be two butchers, a bakers and about four pubs; before our time that was, the Old Oak , the Young Oak, the Bridge and the Green Dragon”.
“There were about 15 or 16 small holdings at one time, well farms and small holdings put together. We used to take cows, we’d take them on our way to school and in them days you couldn’t keep a cow on the road, it used to be on the footpath and it used to lift its tail up and do what it had got to do and Captain Henry he never used to say a word did he?”
“Pudding Bag [Cottage] was a leprosy place, that’s what we’ve always been told. My grandfather used to live there and my grandmother naturally and my mother was born at Pudding Bag. They used to walk to the Fallows and all the way down to Fallows Lane to the school every morning, to Oxton school. Fallows Lane wasn’t like it is now, I mean it was a rough old lane and in the winter they used to have to come down in their wellingtons, and carry a pair of boots or whatever to put on when they got to school. M granny used to tell me, grandad used to put them on a cart and bring them down when it was deep snow”.
[Ken] “When MacLeans was at the Manor,. Des Palmer’s father was the stud groom. Mrs McLean used to have a monkey she did, and when ever she came outside the monkey was in her arm When the grooms had groomed the horses in the morning, she used to come out with a white silk handkerchief and she used to go up to the horses and if there was a speck of dust on the handkerchief they’d got to groom them again, [they were] beautiful horses. Mr Franklin [had] this particular horse [which] was eighteen and a half [hands], very very tall horse. Gordon Richards always used to ride it [at] Colwick Park [Nottingham Race Course]. But it was one of the most famous horses in Oxton, it belonged to old Captain Henry Sherbrooke. [The Oxton point to point] was a very very big occasion that was. Mr Turner who was the farmer living in [Home Farm House], he used to be able to pay his rent for the whole year from what he got from the car parking fees. They used to park in [the field on Main Street] where the big white gate is now, where the plant pots are either side of it, from the wall right to the cricket ground boundary and also, you know where Home Farm yard is, opposite the Green Dragon, well he used to let them park in there as well”.
[Ken] “When we were little children, every Saturday we used to go up to the cricket ground. There was a big roller, actually it was a horse roller with shafts either side, and there was little ropes fixed on and us little kids used to be pulling the roller with the ropes. For doing that, Captain Henry, not till after the match, would stay and see that we all had 12 balls a piece on the little practice piece at the top end. [He was very keen], he wasn’t very good though, if he ever scored above five runs that was his limit”.
[Reg] “I started on my own in January 1953 . [in the] retail coal trade”.
[Ken] “The shop we had facing [Home Farmhouse, Forest Road], that used to be the old post office at one time. My Duncan was only two and Duncan is now 42, so it was 1960 [when my wife Barbara and I took it over]. [We kept it] 21 years I think”.